We’re so excited about our best Leaders Lab yet! The Lupton Center’s Leaders Lab is a unique training experience built for innovative leaders who are willing to disrupt old patterns and create new possibilities.
Today’s profile comes from Caterpillar Ministries’ Executive Director, Sarah Fortner. Caterpillar Ministries is a grass-roots nonprofit and non-denominational Christian organization. They focus on four well-balanced pillars of care for their community of over 450 adults and children.
Read on to learn how Leaders Lab has inspired Caterpillar Ministries’ transformation towards holistic development.
LC: How did you first hear about the Lupton Center and what made you want to join Leaders Lab?
SF: My connection to the Lupton Center started when I read Toxic Charity. It was one of those things that just made sense to me because I was seeing so many parallels from what Bob Lupton was saying in our own work. I walked away from the book really seeing nonprofit work differently. Later, I actually attended one of the Lupton Center’s Community Development Workshops and signed up for their Newsletter.
I had come across their Leaders Lab opportunity and thought it was a perfect opportunity for us. It wasn’t until COVID that we were able to get the breathing room to actually reset and actively work on the issues we had started identifying through the years. We took that first step so we could find more information and guidance on what sustainable changes and reevaluations we could or should make and the Lupton Center really welcomed us to do just that.
LC: What made you want to join Leaders Lab?
SF: We really wanted to be able to have an authentic conversation with people who care about our work, but who also know what deeper questions to ask. We had this seed of knowing that some things needed to change within our organization. What we really needed was guidance and experience to better understand how to make these changes. The Leaders Lab asks those tough questions and comes with the experience to pinpoint things we hadn’t quite identified on our own.
LC: Tell me about your experience in Leaders Lab so far and what you’ve learned?
SF: Definitely one of the things we learned early on is that this is a process and a journey. We had to learn that things within our programs weren’t just going to change overnight. The Leaders Lab survey helped us identify that our existing approach had a sense of “this is what we’re doing for you.” Ultimately, it was rooted in us making a lot of assumptions over the years about what our families might need. The Lab showed us that instead of having a clear division of power between Caterpillar Ministries and our families, we needed to make it more about us as a collective . Understanding this made us take a step back and start finding the right questions to ask. Now we have started hosting more regular meetings and gatherings with our families to ask these questions. We’ve moved on to just listening more actively to what our families want and need to communicate.
LC: What challenges did you face while you were in Leaders Lab?
SF: I think the whole beginning of the program was challenging for us because it prompted so much immediate reevaluation. I realized that we had to look at some programming we offered in a different light. Identifying these specific programs and whether we were providing assistance in the right way was tough. Just taking that step back and asking ourselves if a program is actually getting our families to where they want to be. If it’s helping them get to a place of thriving and flourishing, and strengthening their family or if it’s enabling them to a certain extent. As a staff, we had to ask these hard questions and really think about whether certain things were more like a bandage on top of issues that continued. It was just a challenge to change our mindset and start reevaluating, but it’s been the whole key to learning too.
LC: What would you want to tell people who are considering Leaders Lab or working with the Lupton Center?
SF: I would suggest reading Toxic Charity to anyone who is considering starting work with the Lupton Center. Our staff, volunteers, and board members who participated in the Seeking Shalom series also cannot recommend it enough. These are good starting points to prepare your team for the kind of changes in your organization the Leaders Lab will identify the need for. Fundamentally though, what you need to understand is that Leaders Lab simply has a way of making you think differently. Stacy Brungardt especially has a way of bringing different perspectives to every conversation. Just being able to be involved with the Lupton Center and knowing what they have accomplished is encouraging on its own too. Seeing what they’ve done and their processes really makes you feel like change on the same scale is attainable for your own organization. The Lupton Center empowers you while also being honest with you.
You could be sharing our next testimonial!
Leaders Lab continues to support dynamic leaders like Sarah who want to make lasting change. Let’s work together to learn just how impacting holistic neighborhood development can be. If you are wondering if Leaders Lab is right for you, contact us and we are happy to schedule a short call to help you make a decision.